Monday, April 11, 2016

A new season

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog! For a couple of reasons I haven't worked on genealogy much in the last year or so. I am to the point in my research where the branches are long, far apart, and harder to make a meaningful connection with. It's not that I care less about learning about my more distant relatives, I just found so much enjoyment about uncovering details about the ones closer in. It was also easier to keep everyone organized at that level.

That being said, the last year has been a busy one for me and I am hoping that I can get back into this hobby (well, really a love) of mine!

I got married last summer which means I have a whole new family history to explore. My father-in-law also shares a great interest in genealogy and has been quite active in working on his tree. He emails my husband little interesting tidbits every few days or so. I also had the opportunity to hear a pretty detailed verbal history of his family and their origins - which I quite enjoyed.

So we will see where this goes. :o)

The thought process of figuring out what I wanted to do with my name after getting married was greatly influenced by all of this research I have done. Women so easily become 'dead ends' when you can't figure out what their maiden name was. So I decided to take my husband's last name (hyphenating our particular names really sounded ridiculous, ha!) and figured out how to still keep my first, middle, and maiden name all in my official/legal name. My new SS card and driver's license both arrived this week and I am pleased with how it all looks.

As of today I have 1777 people on my tree and 2823 records attached to them. 1422 of those people have additional 5690 hints ready for viewing! Wowzers.

In the time since I last wrote my dad and one of my uncles both took a 23andMe DNA test. It was really interesting to see the DNA connections between each of them and me and also what they share (and don't). This of course also provided me with access to the X chromosome side of me.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I visited with my grandmother this weekend just in time for Mother's Day.

Her life has been filled with big life changes in the last few years and it was nice to experience and share her 'new normal'. I only regret that the visit was too short.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Birthdays and Anniversaries

Today would have been my grandfather's 104th birthday and tomorrow would have been his 78th wedding anniversary.

My grandpa lived a long and full life. He was a kind hearted and spirited man. He loved my grandmother dearly, every day of her life and beyond. He was a never ending source of witty and corny jokes. He gave me fruit on Halloween, underwear on Christmas, and dresses with matching gloves and bonnets for Easter. He loved Pecan Sandies and peach milkshakes from Hardees. He once remarked that he had been alive for every decade of the 20th century and I realized how much he had experienced.

I like trying to picture what life was like in 1909 on that fall day when my grandpa was born. My great-grandma, his mother, was born almost exactly 100 years before me. I wonder what thoughts were going through her head as she gazed at her new son at this time of night 104 years ago.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thoughts after a lengthy break

Hello blog. It has been a while since I have updated you. My life has been filled with lots of changes over the last few months and I am ready to get back into genealogy.

The other day I was searching around on Etsy for a birthday gift and, as I often do, I plopped 'genealogy' into the search box. I not only found a perfect gift (for someone who threw away the family genealogy research, no less! gasp!) but found a bunch of neat templates to display a family tree. I want to get artsy and create my own and I found some great ideas.

As far as research I haven't been doing much. I let my Ancestry membership lapse while I was moving and getting settled into my new job. I plan to renew it soon, but not quite yet. I have been enjoying the updates from my DNA test with 23andMe. I have recently learned about what the ratio between the length of my index and ring fingers means, an updated report about my risk for Alzheimer's Disease, and my odds of developing narcolepsy.

I'm still hoping a male relative will take the DNA test so I can have record of the Y-lineage, but we shall see.

Since I started researching I have debated about the pros and cons of keeping digital vs. physical records of my research. Right now almost everything I have accomplished is in digital form. While this is more earth friendly and takes up less space, I do sometimes wish I had something tangible too. I made a Shutterfly photobook of old photos of my grandparents and it turned out wonderfully. I'm contemplating making more.

Decisions! Decisions!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I'm back.

Update coming soon :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013


The cherry blossoms aren't out yet, but TJ is still hanging around!

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - Jefferson Memorial - Washington, DC

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shutterfly Photobook!

I have had great luck ordering photo items from Shutterfly. A few days ago I created a print of a vacation photo to decorate my apartment and noticed they were offering a special on photobooks. I started a genealogy book a few months ago but never finished it. This sale renewed my motivation!

I should have it in about a week and I'm very excited to see how it turned out. I'll share some of the pages one it arrives.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

23 Match

A few weeks ago I received a match notification from 23andMe about another user who appeared to be a 1st/2nd cousin. I was intrigued by this because I think I know who all of my 1st and 2nd cousins are, and I wasn't aware of anyone else who was delving into the family history.

This evening I indirectly figured out who it was. I'm excited to see where this goes because it sounds like there may be some interesting genetic traits to compare!

Hiatus Update

Over the last few months I have been having trouble fitting genealogy, and as an extension - this blog, into my life. In the next two weeks I hope to be back on track :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, VA (part 1)

photos taken 1/19/13 - a bright, sunny, and freezing day!

I have always loved Colonial Williamsburg and walking through such historic streets. It's such a neat combination of old and new (and some new made to look old).

The Colonial Williamsburg website indicates that 88 of the buildings are original, including the Bruton Parish Church pictured above. The cemetery around the Bruton Parish Church was unique. Many of the stones are right up against the brick path around the church. I was especially intrigued by the bench built around one of the stones!

The Governor's Palace (in the last photo) was home to the following Virginia governors: Alexander Spotswood, Hugh Drysdale, William Gooch, Robert Dinwiddie, Francis Fauquier, Norborne Berkeley (Baron de Botetourt), John Murray (fourth Earl of Dunmore), Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson. The structure burned down in 1781 and excavation of the foundation and reconstruction took place in the late 1920s and early 1930s (citation).

I'm still exploring if I have any ancestors who lived in Williamsburg :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Another old book.

I think I have discovered a new interest in old books. This one I already was my grandmother's. :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A lovely old find at Goodwill.

Today my friend and I went to explore the book section of the local Goodwill store. Paperbacks are $1 and hardbacks are $2!

I found this neat old school book from 1917!

A child wrote his name and some information about his school inside the front cover. More pictures to come soon!

Friday, January 25, 2013

$0.99 Kindle Book

I'm a little skeptical about this usefulness of this book/article, but it got fairly good (if few) reviews. For those researching American ancestors it sounds like it might be interesting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

23andMe Ancestry Breakdown

My 23andMe DNA results were interesting and multifaceted. I tried to figure out a way to display them, but the font ended up being too small. I'll work on this soon. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

23andMe DNA Testing - Ancestry (+Health!)

I have always been interested in genetics (I considered becoming a genetic counselor for a while!) and the idea that spitting into a small tube could provide me with information about my genetic make up and ancestral origins was quite intriguing.

I missed my first opportunity to purchase an AncestryDNA kit over the summer, but received a second invitation in October 2012. I wrote about my results here. As a recap, I am decidedly the product of a whole bunch of northwest Europeans.

The 23andMe service caught my attention for two main reasons.

1) The ability to further differentiate my DNA origins into countries. British Isles is pretty specific, but nearly all of the paper trails in my research point to Ireland so I was curious if there was a way to genetically 'prove' this.

2) Health information! I know some people are uninterested in the health data included in the service, but this was a big drawing factor for me.

It only took two weeks from the time my sample was received until I had some results in my account. Some of the genealogy data took a few extra days to populate and appear in my account, but I certainly wasn't lacking information to examine during this time!

When you log in you get two main categories on the side of your screen - My Health and My Ancestry. Here are some interesting things you can discover under each:

My Health

My eyes are likely blue (yes), my hair is slightly curlier than average (yes), and my muscles perform more like a sprinter than an endurance athlete (nice! I just thought I was out of shape for long distance running!).

Drug Responses
Analyzes your response to 21 substances (some are medications and some are not). This section was fairly uneventful for me.

Carrier Status
Tests for 48 conditions. For females carrier status of the BRCA Cancer Mutation gene is hidden until you click through another set of check boxes to ensure you really want to know this information. This also came into play in a later section (risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's for both men and women). I opted to learn information for each category.

Disease Risk
This section is broken down into "Elevated Risk", "Decreased Risk", and "Average Risk". This was quite a fascinating section for me with a few surprises in each category. Clicking on each listing will provide you with a summary of the disease, which of your genes are contributing what, and in certain cases things you can do to modify your risk.

My Ancestry 

Edit: I forgot to add 23andMe says I am 100% European (a conservative estimate is 99.1%).

Neanderthal Ancestry
Interesting! Learning what percentage of your DNA was contributed by Neanderthals is an interesting experience. The information provided suggests for humans who originated outside of Africa 1-4% of their DNA will come from Neanderthals. I'm still doing more research on this.

Extended Family
I have 987 DNA relatives participating in the 23andMe site. I have already been contacted by 4 of them (exciting!) but haven't had a chance to respond yet! My account suggests 122 of those individuals are 3rd-4th cousins and 865 are 'distant cousins'. Nobody within the 1st-2nd cousin range at this point.

Mother's Line
Female participants receive their Maternal Haplogroup and some information about where their relatives were 500 years ago. I'm still learning more about how to interpret this information as well.

Countries of Ancestry
Ah yes, what I have been waiting for! This matches pieces of my DNA with DNA from other 23andMe users. There are options to increase or decrease the size of the DNA segment included. Therefore being more exclusive [larger pieces] or inclusive [smaller pieces] with the results.

I've played with the different settings a bit.
  • with the most 'exclusive' controls my list includes: Ireland.
  • with the most 'inclusive' controls my list includes: Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Norway, India, France, Denmark, Bahamas.
I am so excited and so overwhelmed with all of the information that I still have to look through!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I received my preliminary 23andMe DNA results on Tuesday and boy are they fascinating!

Some of the ancestry information is still populating, but so far I think this is a really neat and comprehensive service. I know some people aren't interested in the health information but I have really enjoyed reading through it. I found some things that were a surprise and some things that weren't (more detail on this later).

As far as what I can see about ancestry at this point my results from AncestryDNA and 23andMe are very similar!

Friday, January 4, 2013


I hope everyone had a nice holiday season! I am looking forward to some big changes happening in the first half of 2013.

My first genealogy goal of the new year is to get organized! All of my documents are in one folder on my computer and I am hoping to make a 'Table of Contents' so that when I am looking for a particular file I can find it. I try to label everything with titles, dates, and names so that I can search within Picasa, but this process isn't without flaws.

I like the idea of keeping everything electronic for a a variety of reasons - environmentally friendly, no stacks of paper, and fairly easy to search through (though as I mentioned, this could be better). That being said, I think I may start printing some things. I have trouble visualizing familial connections and areas of my tree that need more work when solely relying on the computer.

I received a tempting email from ancestry this morning about their discounted prices for the new much to consider :)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas! DAR and Letters

I visited my grandmother a few days before Christmas and she gave me a letter and two sets of Daughters of the American Revolution documents to keep. The letter was one her own grandmother wrote to her right before she got married. It details our family tree back multiple generations and confirms much of the research I have done on my own. I even learned a few middle names that I never would have uncovered otherwise.

The DAR applications she gave me were her own and her mother's. I'm not sure if they will be helpful in straightening out the DAR issue I wrote about here, but either way it is neat to have copies of them.

Also, I mentioned that I received my 23andMe testing kit a few days ago! I will make an entry specifically about that when I have some free time in the next few days.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Receive, spit, send back

I received my 23andMe testing kit today (ok, fine...yesterday since it is after midnight)! My sample is already on its way to the lab.

More thoughts on this soon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

23andMe on the move

My 23andMe testing kit left the USPS facility in Oakland, CA today!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On this day...

Today is December 19th and my family tree contains two deaths.

On this date in 1899 my 3rd cousin 3x removed died and in 1933 the husband of my 1st cousin 4x removed did.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

3 and 365

3 is the number of hours I spent in a cemetery on this lovely warm afternoon.
365 is the number of photos I took.

I'll post my favorites soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Genealogy Kindle Books for under $5! (part one)

Earlier today I wrote a post about my frugal start into genealogy. Continuing with this are links to very inexpensive kindle books on a variety of family history topics you may find interesting!

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More coming soon...

My frugal entrance into genenalogy

I became interested in genealogy while I was still a student. Living in a little 10th floor apartment I spent many hours gazing at the skyline to rest my eyes from the strain of writing a thesis (and, of course, exploring my family history). To say my financial means to delve into the world of genealogy were modest is an understatement. I am a frugal person and I was hesitant to immediately purchase a membership to any of the online genealogical resources. (What if I don't find anything?!) I think I waited nearly 18 months and then my grandmother gave me a gift membership to

Online Memberships (you don't always have to pay right away!)
During that initial 18 months I gathered a lot of information (Ok, not finding anything seems doubtful now...). Some of it was handed to me in the form of stories, old photographs, and already completed research. The rest was the result of what I like to call 'frugal detective work' and building a base to explore from.

Ancestry allows non-subscribers to search and see some of the information contained in a record. For example, right now I have let my membership lapse while I physically move myself and then spend some time organizing what I already know (then I will be back!). As a guest I am able to search for one Nancy Williams and see that she appears on the 1880 census. I can also see her age, approximate birth year, birthplace, home in 1880, race, gender, relationship to the head of household, marital status, spouse's name, father's birthplace, mother's birthplace, and the names & ages of other people in her household. Not too shabby!

Documentation is an essential part of genealogy, so the major downfall to this type of research is you don't have the ability to examine the actual document that is supplying the above information. There may be transcription errors...and plain old errors...and you may not catch them. Another drawback is you don't have the benefit of viewing other information such as your ancestor's address. I had no idea until I was perusing my grandfather's childhood neighbors that he lived next door to his own grandparents in 1920. This also helped me pinpoint how old other family members were. I have also been able to take census addresses and locate residences that are still in existence many many many years later (see my blogger and twitter icon for an example!).

Genealogy books can be expensive. I have my eye on one that is hundreds of dollars and I doubt I will ever see a copy of it. Over the last few months I have discovered the wonderful world of free and cheap Kindle books. I am working on a future post that organizes the ones that I have found that are under $5. So far, I have really enjoyed the ones I downloaded and since you don't need a Kindle to read them I think many people would find them interesting.

[Another frugal tip - I often purchase my Kindle books with gift cards I earn from swagbucks which makes many of them free. If you want to learn more about that you can use my link to their website here or go directly to].

Social Networking
Twitter is also a great free resource. In the few months I have been using my account I have made numerous new friends! Reading other blogs and learning about how other people organize their searches can be very helpful - especially for newer genealogists. Who knew the genealogy blogging community was so vibrant?! This afternoon I also starting searching YouTube for ideas and to meet other family historians.

Ever since the internet entered my life (was that 1998?) I have enjoyed reading forums - about sports, animals, careers, schools, movies, travel, photography...and genealogy! In addition to the forums I also joined's Gen Forum as I began my research. The message boards are searchable by last name, geography, and other topics.

I have had mixed luck with these types of ventures. Some of 'my names' seem to be interesting to a lot of other researchers (fun!) and with other names I question whether or not I am the only person in the entire world looking for information (not as fun!). Either way, I like getting emails from the forum when other people add to discussions I have participated in.

I love hearing other tips for making genealogy a cost effective hobby so please feel free to share your own!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Time to take a step back and organize what I have.

Yesterday while visiting the Hollywood Cemetery my friend and I started talking about the Daughters of the American Revolution and how we are both eligible to become members.

I came home last night to look up the information that my grandmother, great aunt, and great grandmother had used to join back in the 1950s. I was disappointed to see in lovely red letters..."PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED WITH AT LEAST ONE PREVIOUSLY VERIFIED PAPER". Since I am not yet a member myself it will be interesting to see what will be required to rectify this. I need to call my grandmother and ask her what she knows.

I also noticed that my Ancestry membership subscription has expired so I can't currently look up new records. I am going to renew it, but in the mean time I'm going on an organization spree. The number of records, documents, photos, stories, and people that I have accumulated over the last few years is overwhelming. Overwhelming is an understatement.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

History Tourist. Cemetery. Hollywood. Vampires.

I have been all over the place this weekend. Today my friend and I ended up exploring some of the historic areas of Richmond, Virginia including Hollywood Cemetery.

The grounds are huge and seemingly endless. I was struck by how hilly the land along the James River is and how many individuals were laid to rest right on these steep slopes. The foggy, dark, and dreary day created an atmosphere perfect for exploring the unique and intricate memorials to the people buried here.

The cemetery is home to two United States Presidents, the only President of the Confederacy, Civil War soldiers, individuals famous for various reasons, and numerous other people who don't fall into any of those categories!

Sons of the American Revolution

Home to the Richmond Vampire?

The Church Hill Tunnel collapsed and buried a train on October 2, 1925. A few people were killed and at least one was injured. This survivor (Benjamin F Mosby) was badly burned before he emerged from the tunnel. His frightening appearance may have given way to the legend of a Vampire fleeing through Downtown Richmond, over the James River, and into the Hollywood Cemetery. Though Mr. Mosby was taken to Grace Hospital and later succumbed to his burns, the legend concludes with the vampire hiding in the vault of a Mr. W.W. Pool.